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Mango Tree
In the words of Helen Keller, “alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” This sentiment is at the heart of Feeding Tomorrow, the Foundation of IFT. One of Feeding Tomorrow’s commitments is to leverage the collective knowledge of the global science of food community to pursue food and nutrition solutions for those in need. As part of that commitment, the foundation recently partnered with global non-profit Engineering for Change (E4C) and the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., to support research regarding the mango value chain in Kenya. 

Mangoes constitute an important, but underserved, niche in the region’s food supply, and their production is low-tech and rich with targets for improvement, according to experts. Three E4C Research Fellows living and working in three countries (USA, Ghana, and UK) are wrapping up the first phase of a two-part investigation into post-harvest losses on Kenyan mango plantations. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the group to conduct their research remotely, but that didn’t stop them from making significant progress on their research goals. Preliminary findings suggest limitations in harvesting, processing technology, and market options may stymie profits and increase losses.

“So far, our findings show there is limited availability of technologies for mango processing, especially for post-harvest handling and small-scale processing,” said Bezalel Adainoo, a graduate of the University of Ghana, who lives in Accra, Ghana. Adainoo was accepted into a Master of Food Science program at the University of Missouri that begins in the fall of 2020. “It is quite surprising that even with the abundance of mangoes, there is limited access to markets, which leaves most of the mangoes at the local fresh markets where a lot goes to waste.”

Behirah Hartranft, an undergraduate student of biological engineering at the University of Missouri, has studied large-scale soy operations in the United States, and says she struggles to avoid comparing them too closely to the Kenyan mango farms she is investigating now.

“Mango farms in Kenya are much smaller and there is almost no equipment involved,” Hartranft said. “Harvesters may even climb trees to pick the fruit rather than using mechanized or even hand tools, and mangoes are usually sold whole without any processing to add value or reduce the risk of loss to rot or damage.”

Only five percent of mangoes in Kenya go to processing plants, according to Jonathan Kemp, who recently graduated with a Master in Engineering for International Development from University College London (UK) and now serves as Technical Manager for a Malawian organization called Eagles Relief and Development Programme Intl.

Unique Talents Yield Improved Results
Partnerships with organizations like E4C and the University of Missouri bring distinct areas of expertise together to advance areas of common interest.

E4C provides technical know-how with its global community of more than 1 million engineers, academics, global development practitioners, and students, as well as the experience of its founding partners, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and Engineers Without Borders – USA.

The University of Missouri Food Engineering and Sustainable Technologies (FEAST) Lab provides students in engineering and food science a platform for transdisciplinary collaboration. Students are selected for their interest in global development, academic excellence, and interest in sustainable food processing technologies. Educational institutions such as the University of Missouri can provide young minds opportunities to address the world’s grand challenges, according to IFT member Dr. Kiruba Krishnaswamy, an assistant professor at the University Missouri who leads the FEAST Lab. 

Partnerships like these are also able to speed progress.

“So many of us are working toward the same mission and partnerships can accelerate impact,” said Kate Dockins, vice president and executive director of Feeding Tomorrow. “The collaboration and insights from cross-disciplinary organizations and members are the lifeblood of non-for-profit, mission-driven organizations. It’s thrilling to see the intersection of innovation and inspiration through this fellowship program.”

This sentiment reflects a global push for partnerships among entities striving to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, as embodied in SDG 17, “revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.”

“The fundamental core of good partnerships is their ability to bring together diverse resources in ways that can together achieve more: more impact, greater sustainability, increased value to all,” Darian Stibbe and colleagues at The Partnering Initiative and UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs write in their report, Maximising the Impact of Partnerships for the SDGs. “The SDGs name all societal sectors as key development actors and require an unprecedented level of cooperation and collaboration among civil society, business, government, NGOs, foundations, and others for their achievement,” the report says.

With the worldwide population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, the challenge to minimize food waste and meet global food demand is great. Partnerships like this are one way Feeding Tomorrow is acting on its promise to ensure the world has the ability to feed its growing and diverse population in the years to come. Learn more about the foundation’s work on the Feeding Tomorrow website.
 

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